It’s Not Getting Better and It Won’t

There are millions of families in the United States who would love to have a XXV Amendment to help them deal with mental illness in their children, spouses or siblings.

No matter how well meaning family members might be, their hands are tied by the law’s tilt toward the rights of the patient.

Fortunately, the rules differ when it is the President who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

This is worth considering because “It’s Not Getting Better and It Won’t.”

Here is the first paragraph of Section 4 of the XXV Amendment to the Constitution.

“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

There is a second paragraph dealing with the procedure for resolving disagreements. It involves both houses of Congress, time frames, hearings and supermajorities.

First term Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse seems to be staking a claim to the “sane but still conservative” lane in future presidential contests. “We are in the midst of a civilization-warping crisis of public trust, and the President’s allegations today demand the thorough and dispassionate attention of serious patriots. A quest for the full truth, rather than knee-jerk partisanship, must be our guide if we are going to rebuild civic trust and health.”

He might or might not favor invoking the XXV Amendment but, for whatever reason (and self serving ambition should never be far from our thinking about politicians), he is making it easier for others to contemplate the idea.

My friend John LeBoutillier, former Congressman and author of Harvard Hates America: The Odyssey of a Born-again American, now co-hosts Revolution The Podcast with radio veteran Arlene Bynon. The most recent episode deals with the President’s mental health.

Their guest was John Gartner, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University who believes that President Trump is mentally ill.

He uses all of the words that lay people have no idea they are using imprecisely or even incorrectly. I have to believe he is using them properly because I am not sufficiently trained or experienced to suggest otherwise.

Here are some examples: psychotic antisocial lie; psychotic delusions; malignant narcissism; bipolar; hypomanic; grandiosity; impulsive. You get the picture.

There is a rule in the mental health field named for Barry Goldwater. It says that diagnosing a person you have not treated is unethical.

Gartner points to another ethical precept – the duty to warn – to refute the applicability of the Goldwater Rule.

He also notes that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is intentionally written in the language of lay people to enable observed behavior to help determine diagnoses. He makes a fascinating point – not helpful to his profession – that the psychological interview session (where the patient can lie) is less effective than simply observing patient behavior.

Essentially, if a person does this, this and this, professionals say the behavior constitutes mental illness.

Gartner notes that the DSM was created after the Goldwater rule and thus, presumably, supersedes it.

Gartner is far from unbiased and that shows when he turns his attention to the motivations of Republicans who are keeping their heads down out of a sense of tribal self-preservation.

There are many points made by President Trump before and since his election that are entirely deserving of our attention because they have long been neglected.

Washington is corrupt and virtually everyone involved participates in that corruption. That is a worthy problem.

If our trade policy was aimed at international political stature rather than our economic interests, the plight of those who suffered is a worthy problem.

There are others.

Sadly, the good points made by Donald Trump are likely to be dismissed from political debate because of his association with them.

“Swamp draining is not a real problem that is just a Trump thing and we all know about him.”

I bet there are lots of families dealing with mental illness that would invoke the XXV Amendment if such a thing were available to them. Sadly it is not but that is another story.

According to a professional whom I have known for many years and for whom I have the highest regard, “It’s Not Getting Better and It Won’t.”

10 Responses to “It’s Not Getting Better and It Won’t”

Jonathan Pardee, March 06, 2017 at 2:44 pm said:

“It’s Not Getting Better and It Won’t”
– If you would like to reduce your tagline to a bet, Haven, I’ll take the other side for a dinner for 2-4, served with humility, location to be selected by the winner in his home town.
– How will we measure “Better”? Rasmussen was among the top few pollsters in predicting the Presidential election outcome, so I propose we use their most recent “Right Track – Wrong Track” poll result as the baseline, allow a one year time frame, and compare their 2018 poll result to the baseline.
To account for random changes and variations in polling methods, let’s call the first 0- 5% of prospective “improvement” a push, but anything greater than 5% will be a win for me. In return, I’ll forego the 5% wiggle room on the downside and concede that anything lower than the baseline will be a win for you.
– Consider the digital gauntlet dropped onto your keyboard…


Haven Pell, March 06, 2017 at 3:24 pm said:

The “IT” to which I refer in the title is the mental wellbeing of the President. I am not sure that is pollable. That said, I am delighted to accept the bet in the fervent hope that I lose.

I offer the following measuring stick: “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.” Same as pornography.

We can have a conversation in early March 2018 on the question “does the President’s mental health appear better or worse than a year ago.”

I have no doubt we’ll be able to agree on the answer and thus the identity of the check grabber.


GARRARD GLENN, March 06, 2017 at 3:33 pm said:

If Trump is nuts but effects policies that are beneficial to the country, then if the DSM designates the next presidential contender as nuts, let’s elect him. Trends must be respected.


Haven Pell, March 06, 2017 at 3:35 pm said:

Okay, now that’s funny. Good point.


Ashley Higgins, March 06, 2017 at 7:59 pm said:

Out here in the wilderness, everyone seems to believe it is getting better and that the swamp critters are the crazy ones.


Haven Pell, March 06, 2017 at 8:08 pm said:

The swamp critters are far worse than crazy. Crazy people can’t help themselves. The swamp critters are trading entirely for their own account with full knowledge of what they are doing and considerable skill. My concern is that the swamp critters will win by discrediting him and thus put an end to the assault on their murky existence for a generation.


Chuck Resor, March 06, 2017 at 8:29 pm said:

You talk as if all those who have worked in the swamp are “swamp critters.” Granted even the “best and the brightest” can sometimes lose their bearings in the swamp, but many have served our country well while toiling there sometimes a substantial cost to themselves and their families.


Haven Pell, March 06, 2017 at 9:00 pm said:

I hate to start carving out exceptions lest the undeserving try to scurry through the openings, but there have clearly been people who have entered government for a specific purpose rather than as permanent political (both elected and professional) inhabitants.

One who comes to mind is the 9th Secretary of the Army (1965-1971) Stanley Rogers Resor.


Chuck Resor, March 06, 2017 at 9:40 pm said:

Believe it or not, he was not foremost in my mind.


Haven Pell, March 06, 2017 at 9:44 pm said:

you made a good point about appointees though and perhaps about the customs and mores of four or five decades ago.


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